Rugby players accused of rape deny colluding to cover-up their tracks

Paddy Jackson has denied “concocting” a story with his friends to cover their tracks in case of rape allegations.

The Irish rugby international was giving evidence on the 28th day of his high-profile trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Arthur Harvey QC, representing Blane McIlroy who is contesting an exposure charge, put it to the court: “The allegation that has been suggested is that when you were in Soul Food on the afternoon on June 28 (2016) that you, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison (pictured) concocted together a version of events which would satisfy any police inquiries into allegations of rape against you and the others.

“Did that happen?”

Jackson said: “No that did not happen.”

Jackson, 26, from Oakleigh Park, Belfast, and Stuart Olding, 24, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman in south Belfast in June 2016.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road, Belfast, denies exposure while Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Jackson spent several hours giving evidence as the defence teams opened their case.

He was quizzed about close friendships with the co-accused. However, he told the court that neither McIlroy or Rory Harrison had revealed, the day after the alleged attack, that the woman had apparently been “distressed”.

He said: “Sitting here now, yeah it’s disappointing. But I trust them. If they did not tell me, it is because they did not think it was as serious as it clearly is now.”

Jackson also said he was not informed by Harrison that the complainant had reportedly said what happened had not been consensual.

“He did not tell me,” said Jackson. “Rory is a very nice guy and if he was worried he would not want to worry me or cause me any alarm or distress.”

He was also asked about prosecution claims that his friends and team mates had effectively “closed ranks” after allegations emerged.

Toby Hedworth QC said: “(The complainant) was concerned that if she was to report the matter to the police that essentially it would be the word of your group against her. She’d be the silly little girl who had done something then regretted it. And that’s exactly the stance that has been taken?”

Jackson responded: “No, it’s not. There’s not stance.”

Later the court heard how Ulster Rugby did not provide Jackson with a solicitor or contact him while he was in police custody.

Defence QC Brendan Kelly asked: “Was there any pulling of ranks as far as Ulster Rugby was concerned?”

Jackson replied: “No there wasn’t.”

Meanwhile, Jackson was also asked about his level of intoxication on the night in question.

He had consumed beer, gin and tonic and some “shots”, the court heard.

Prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC said: “Do you accept that being a gifted sportsman is not a defence to the charges that you face?

“And being involved in charitable work is not a defence to the charges that you face?

“And being drunk or having drink is not a defence to the charges that you face?

“But being drunk is perhaps an explanation for the charges that you face, is it not?”

Having rejected all the previous questions, Jackson then interjected: “Sorry, what do you mean?”

The lawyer stated: “You recall that a doctor called by the defence gave evidence and said how alcohol reduces inhibitions and about how it makes people do things they would not normally do.

“It makes people do unacceptable things that in the cold, sober light of day they maybe shouldn’t have done. That’s what you did isn’t it Mr Jackson?”

The defendant replied: “No, not at all.”

The case continues.

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